New Neymar? Another Santos teen making headlines
Neymar just left Brazil and there is already another Santos
teenager making all the headlines in the country.
This time the kid attracting all the attention is Gabriel
Barbosa Almeida, a 16-year-old nicknamed ”Gabigol” thanks to his
scoring prowess in Santos’ youth squads.
Gabriel scored his first professional goal this week, giving
Santos a key win in a Brazilian Cup match and igniting widespread
comparisons to Neymar.
Gabriel is about two months younger than Neymar was when he
scored his first goal, and the teen also needed less time on the
field to do it than the newly signed Barcelona star.
Before Neymar, the team made famous by Pele in the 1960s had
also delivered Robinho, the AC Milan striker who thrived with
Santos as a youngster and eventually played a World Cup with
Gabriel may only be 16 but he has been touted a future star for
quite some time in the coastal city of Santos. There was talk about
him even while Neymar was just starting to showcase his skills at
the club a few years ago.
But it wasn’t until Wednesday that Gabigol put his name on the
map for good, thanks to scoring the winning goal in Santos’ 1-0
victory over Gremio in the first leg of their round-of-16 matchup
in the Brazilian Cup.
Gabriel wasn’t even supposed to play that night. He went to the
stadium to watch the match as a spectator, but got the last-minute
call to get ready after another player was suddenly cut from the
”When it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” Gabriel said. ”I
was playing videogames at home all afternoon and just came to the
stadium to watch the match. I went to the changing room to give my
support to the players and then they told me that I had to get
ready because Victor wasn’t going to be able to play. I didn’t even
have my playing shoes with me, I didn’t have anything with
Gabriel started the match on the bench, but got into the game in
the second half and scored the winner in the 82nd minute with a low
left-footed shot from near the penalty spot, giving Santos the
advantage heading into the second leg in Porto Alegre next week.
The goal came against veteran Gremio goalkeeper Dida, who is 23
years older than Gabriel.
The Santos youngster took off his jersey and ran toward the fans
in the stands to celebrate, yelling and pumping his left fist.
”I’m going to save this moment for my entire life,” Gabriel
said after the match. ”I’m incredibly happy, I’m speechless. It
was amazing to see the fans celebrating with me.”
Neymar was 17 when he scored his first professional goal. The
21-year-old Brazil striker scored in his third match with Santos,
but he needed a total of 149 minutes on the field to do it.
Gabriel, meanwhile, was playing in his sixth game as a
professional, but needed only 124 minutes to get a goal for the
first time, according to GloboEsporte.com.
What Neymar and Gabriel have in common is the man who discovered
them among the hundreds of youngsters trying to make it from the
youth squads. Betinho, the scout who also found Robinho, was
responsible for selecting Gabriel and helping him get ready to
transition into the professional squad.
Gabriel was only 10 when Betinho started talking about his
potential. He gave an interview to GloboEsporte.com at the time
saying that Gabriel could ”be playing at a very high level in the
”It’s a pleasure to see what’s happening now,” Betinho told
the website this week. ”Like I said a few years ago, he can be the
idol of a generation.”
Gabriel, physically strong and owner of a powerful left-footed
shot, reportedly already has a (euro) 50 million buyout clause in
his contract with Santos. He has the same agent as Robinho and
Neymar, Wagner Ribeiro, who played a big part in Neymar’s transfer
to Barcelona earlier this year.
Gabriel, who will turn 17 on Aug. 30, already played for
Brazil’s under-15 squad and has already been summoned for the
under-17 national team.
He only got to play on Wednesday because Victor had to be cut
for taking allergy medicine which could potentially show up in a
doping test, but Santos coach Claudinei said that the youngster
will likely be getting more playing time soon.
”Gabriel got in and took advantage of his chance,” the coach
told local media. ”There is no doubt that this is going to help
him find his space in the team.”
Gabriel will go back to teenage life until he can get another
shot at glory.
”I’ll just go back to playing videogames,” he said. ”I always
score a lot in the videogames, but in real life it’s so much
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